apr 09, 2013
Once realised, the best design solutions often seem obvious or inevitable and that is the case with this particular project.
It is always heartening to see public space, and the public realm in general, being upgraded. It’s rare when this happens and is not a token payback gesture by a commercial developer. One such project is taking place right around the corner from the studio.
Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council have made a number of improvements to the town centre public realm – such as the upgrading of the streetscape along Marine Road. The most successful intervention, in my view, is the ongoing Metals project to cover over the below-ground rail line that runs along the seafront from Marine Road to The People’s Park. This cutting created a physical barrier between town and sea restricting pedestrian movement between the two. Now that the first two phases are complete, it seems quite an obvious thing to do – to remove this physical barrier and reshape the space to encourage usage and enjoyment by all.
'it seems quite an obvious thing to do – to remove this physical barrier and reshape the space'
The completed Phase 1 consists of generous outdoor seating areas for the many cafes and restaurants that face onto to the rail line. Retractable canopies & timber decking create the feel of a continental plaza. The secret to creating successful public space is to facilitate a diverse range of functions & activities. And in the spirit of true public amenity there is ample free-seating for those just enjoying the sun, the activity or people-watching.
'the secret to creating successful public space is to facilitate a diverse range of functions & activities'
As I walked through at the end of last summer*, I witnessed diners, walkers, sitters, dog-walkers, children playing, grass-lying sun-bathers and even someone practising parkour. All in a space that was previously inaccessible, under-utilised and largely unloved.
Phase 2 has been temporarily surfaced, awaiting completion of the adjacent County Library, currently under construction. In contrast to the first phase ’adult space’, it is envisioned to cater for teenagers and young adults which will lend it a vibrancy.
Perhaps the children who used to peek through gaps in the wall at trains passing below might disagree, but I feel this is a worthy addition to the public realm and look forward to seeing all phases completed.
Phase 1 of the project deservedly won the Best Public Space category in the RIAI Awards 2012.
*I have given this scheme plenty of time to bed-down before commenting on it. This allows for teething problems to be resolved and gave me the opportunity to both experience the space and observe it in use.*